Mayo to end long wait for minor All-Ireland at Tyrone’s expense

Westerners looks to be more of a collective

Liam Irwin could be the decisive forward for Mayo against Tyrone.  Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Liam Irwin could be the decisive forward for Mayo against Tyrone. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho


In 2008 these counties produced a minor final of such equal intensity that second helpings were required.

The replay was an even better spectacle with Tyrone prevailing, despite a teenage Aidan O’Shea straining every sinew in his already massive body.

The Red Hand production line reappeared in 2010 and, like clockwork in modern times, they find themselves travelling back down to Croke Park for tomorrow’s curtain-raiser.

Something similar could be written about Mayo if they had not lost all six minor finals they have reached since 1991.

You know the story with Mayo and All-Irelands by now.

The county’s minors have not captured the Tommy Markham Cup since 1985 and while that is not as mortifying as the senior gap back to 1951, considering the amount of talented footballers they produce it is just as concerning.

Maybe the link of manager Enda Gilvarry, full-back on the ’85 side that beat Cork, will provide the impetus to finally break out of the tenement conditions in their House of Pain. Or maybe it will be Liam Irwin or Tommy Conroy who stand up and deliver the scores to bring a seventh minor All-Ireland title to Mayo.

For certain, Cian Hanley, the brother of AFL player Pearce, will not be contributing after fracturing his collarbone.

The bookmakers tell us Mayo will prevail, giving them a delicate two-point handicap advantage.

‘Massive hurdle’
Tyrone will be pleased to see that as their manager Mickey Donnelly confirmed: “I think people shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we’re going in as massive underdogs. We have a massive, massive hurdle to climb, but we’re going to give it one hell of a rattle.”

Donnelly has made one change to his team for tomorrow’s clash, with David Mulgrew coming into the attack in place of Philip Donnelly.

They seem to have become a wiser outfit on their journey to tomorrow’s final. Especially after the Ulster decider when they squandered an eight point lead to gift the spoils to Monaghan. Such a dramatic buckling of Tyrone knees is unheard of even from starry-eyed under-18s.

They recovered to see off Kerry then Roscommon with Conor McKenna leading the way with 2-11 to date in championship. Lee Brennan and Ruairí McGlore also need minding.

The suspicion of the neutral is a romantic one; that come tomorrow night both All-Ireland trophies will be on display in the Mayo hotel. That the time is now to end the long wait for national supremacy.

Tyrone’s pedigree will debate that to the bitter end.

Since Mickey Harte’s influence was been brought to bear on the county football panels the minors have won five All-Irelands. Victory here would give them nine in total and leave them one behind Cork and two off Dublin and Kerry.

That represents more than a golden era, it represents the rise of a football empire.

But Mayo’s showing against Monaghan in the semi-final makes them too strong a collective to go against.

Mayo then for the minor.

MAYO: M Mulligan; E Doran, S Cunniffe, D Kenny; M Hall, S Coen, S Conlon; V Roughneen, D O’Connor; C Loftus, M Plunkett, P Prendergast; D Doherty, L Irwin, T Conroy. Substitutes: M Flanagan, H Cafferty, K Jordan, R Finn, B Walsh, M Ruane, F Duffy, J Langan, C Byrne.
TYRONE: S Fox; C Byrne, R Quinn, C McCann; S Hamill, C Morris, P McGirr; R Nugent, F Burns; D Mulgrew, C McKenna, R McGlone; L Brennan, D Gallagher, S McGrath. Substitutes: R McGeary, K Coney, P Donnelly, T Donnelly, S Fox, M Lynn, R McHugh, C McShane, C O’Donnell.
Referee: C Lane (Cork).